Sunday, September 16, 2012

Doing Your Research?

Sometimes, when choosing a new care provider—like an orthodontist—it helps to have a different take on the practice you are considering. Sure, you investigate the recommendations of your general dentist. You evaluate the training of the professionals who might treat you. And, of course, if you know a patient, you are wise to ask some probing questions.

But what if you don’t know anyone to ask? What if —for the sake of today’s blog—you are interested in Smiles by Sutherland, but don’t know anyone to ask?

We’ve done some research lately that might help you see exactly what kind of people have chosen SBS for their orthodontic care. It’s a big crowd and chances are someone you know has come through our doors.

Take a look . . .

Did you know that our patients come from all over the area—not just Puyallup? People drive to our downtown Puyallup office from South Hill, Tacoma, Fife/Milton and Federal Way, Bonney Lake, Sumner, Orting, and Eatonville. We’ve even had patients finish their treatment by flying in from Florida and Alaska!

Apparently, many of our patients believe the trip is entirely worth the effort.

All in all, this year more than 36 area dentists have recommended SBS to their patients. Many of those, after careful deliberation, chose to drive past other, more local orthodontists in order to visit our office. We are honored by their commitment and trust. We know it’s a sacrifice to come so far.

But what kind of patients find their way to our office? It turns out that about one third are elementary aged students, between five and twelve. However, the largest portion—nearly half—of all our patients are teenagers between 13 and 18. It’s a great thing that we love kids, with nearly three-quarters of our patients still in school!

For the younger set, our waiting room has some Wii® consoles, video games, and books. But you won’t find yourself sitting around for long. Our appointments, check-ups and consultations usually fly along right on time.

Lately we’ve observed a growing number of adults beginning orthodontic treatment. In fact, about 20% of our patients are over 18. The development of Invisalign has made treatment more attractive to many adults. Years ago, these patients would have had to deal with appliances and wires—not ideal for working professionals.  Today, with shorter treatment times, and virtually invisible aligners, our patients get brand new smiles at every age!  We find that older adults become our most enthusiastic and excited patients.

If you'd like to hear that enthusiasm straight from our patients, check out these online reviews:

No matter who you are, chances are good that you’ll find someone just like you sitting in our waiting room. When you come in for one of our free consultations, you’ll discover that you fit right in. You’ll be welcomed and made comfortable in every possible way. So, why not you? Why not now? Why not today? Give us a call!

Dr. Ethan Larson,
With Bette Nordberg

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Light in the Darkness


All of us have faced an occasional difficulty. But so far, 2012 has delivered five different crises to Dr. Greg Sutherland. 

“I’ve been thinking about it. Since January, I’ve experienced at least five deaths. Some have been physical deaths; I’ve lost people I deeply loved. One represents the end of a thirty-year relationship. One represents my approaching retirement from clinical practice. Though I plan to be in the office for quite a while yet, I'm beginning to see that I won’t work here full-time forever.”

Another death, a physical death, occurred only weeks ago.

“The problem with crisis is that you usually don’t have time to think about it ahead of time,” Greg said in a recent interview. “You simply have to hold on, knowing that it will eventually pass. It isn’t ‘if’ it will end, it’s ‘when’ it ends.”

Though he’s experienced a difficult year, Greg has gathered some treasures along the way. “In every death I’ve experienced a kind of resurrection,” he says. Greg has watched as people take on new and more important roles in the face of tragedy. “My son-in-law became a spiritual leader in a whole new way as his father was dying. He took the night shift with his father, praying with him, holding his hand, and speaking words of comfort and encouragement even when his father could no longer respond.”

In the face of grief, Greg has seen new passions ignited. “When Jesus is involved, even the darkest moments bring new life.” 

Though Dr. Greg isn’t looking for difficulty, it’s easy to see that he’s committed to hang on to Christ in the midst of them. “I refuse to let my responses be determined by what happens to me, or to those I love.” It isn’t always easy; this year, it’s been especially difficult. But as a servant of Christ, it’s the only way.

How about you? Eventually, all of us will experience calamity. A house burns. A child passes. A doctor gives a dreaded diagnosis. When you face crisis, what do you do to weather the storm? Can you share your advice?

 Dr. Greg Sutherland, DDS, MS
With Bette Nordberg

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Added Value: Innovation!

This week, we’ll continue our discussion of Invisalign, the remarkable method of moving teeth using a series of clear plastic retainers.

While the technology is relatively new (you can read about its history in our last blog), its use has become widespread. Even general dentists (with no post-graduate orthodontic credentials) have begun to provide Invisalign to their patients. This is only possible because the trays themselves are made off site—by the Invisalign Company—based on the company’s treatment plans. In this case, both the patient and the dentist must trust Invisalign to provide the best approach for the patient.

However at Smiles by Sutherland, patients can expect more.

Because Dr. Sutherland has been involved with Invisalign from the very early days, his expertise has actually changed the way orthodontic treatment plans are created, especially in the SBS office. Here is one exciting example.

Not so long ago, the orthodontic world believed that tooth movement could only safely occur "one tooth at a time." Practically speaking, this meant that when teeth in the back of the mouth needed to move backward (to make room for the front teeth to move backward too), that motion had to occur slowly, one tooth at a time.

New Patient. Notice upper teeth (crowding, rotation, protruding) cover lower teeth.
When Invisalign began their process followed this "one tooth at a time" philosophy. In those days, patients with protruding front teeth ad to wait through interminably long treatments while the posterior teeth (molars and premolars) were moved backwards. Only then could the front teeth be moved into the newly vacated space.

"Those patients sometimes had to wear more than eighty aligners in order to accomplish this much tooth movement. At two weeks per aligner, that accounts for almost three years of treatment," Dr. Sutherland explained in a recent interview.

It was too long for most patients.

New Patient, lower jaw showing crowding and rotation of central teeth.
About four years ago, Dr. Sutherland began to re-think the concept. He began to believe that with the right adaptations, groups of teeth could be moved together, or "en-masse." In the beginning, Dr. Sutherland went to Invisalign with the idea of adding buttons to his patient's "eye teeth" (canine teeth) and first molars. He attached elastics to these buttons, which provided additional tooth moving force. Later, Invisalign placed laser-made cuts on the aligners accomplishing the same purpose.

With these and other adaptations to the aligners, Dr. Sutherland pioneered what is now called, "en-masse posterior distilization," a process which moves posterior teeth backward in blocks. The new technique allows 3-6 mm of movement in as little as six months, cutting total treatment time, in many cases by half.

New Invisalign processes have changed much of what was believed to be possible about orthodontic treatment. These nearly invisible aligners are now able to change the relationship of the upper jaw to the lower (moving the lower jaw forward). They can open the bit, allowing the lower teeth to become visible (rather than hidden by the upper teeth). They can even change the shape of the upper arch.

Since Dr. Ethan Larson joined Smiles By Sutherland, both he and Dr. Sutherland have continued to share and perfect these new techniques. While you'll never hear them boast, their commitment to efficient and innovative treatment plans have changed the way smiles are made these days. That kind of expertise isn't available just anywhere.

Smiles by Sutherland patients experience these benefits every single day!
After Invisalign, the lower teeth in perfect alignmnet!
Treatment complete. Notice the lower teeth are visible. The rotation and crowding are absent. Beautiful smile!
How about you? Isn't it time that you, or someone you loved, enjoyed the charm and beauty of a new smile?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An Inventor in Our Midst

Today’s blog will be part history, part science and all about Invisalign.

You probably recognize Invisalign as the trademarked name for the process of moving teeth using a custom-designed series of clear plastic retainers. For the patient, the obvious benefit is privacy; most people don’t even realize that you are wearing a retainer!

Though you may have heard the word (in the context of orthodontics), you probably don’t know the history behind this game-changing development in the tooth-moving business. Until the Invisalign process was introduced, the only way to move teeth involved brackets and wire. In children and teens the process of tooth movement often required additional bulky and embarrassing appliances. Remember the old headgear that children often wore? In those days, because braces were so visible, and adult treatment often involved costly surgery, orthodontists rarely had older patients in treatment.

Today, because of Invisalign, much of that has changed.

Actually, the Invisalign process itself wasn’t invented by an orthodontist! Instead, a Morgan Stanly investment banker envisioned the idea. After his own orthodontic treatment ended, his orthodontist gave him clear retainers, instructing him to wear them daily in order to prevent his teeth from regressing—moving away from—their new position.

It didn’t take long for Mr. Zia Chishti to realize that he didn’t have to wear them every day, because, when he put the retainers back in, his teeth resumed their original position. Then the idea came to him that the retainers were actually causing tooth movement. From this simple realization, the concept for Invisalign was born. Mr. Zia Chishti (the banker) joined with Ms. Kelsey Worth—combining their computer science and graphic design backgrounds—to design and create the company behind the Invisalign brand.

Align Technology began promoting their new retainer system to orthodontists in 1999, and Dr. Sutherland joined the revolution in 2000. Since then, Dr. Sutherland has completed enough cases to become an Invisalign Elite Provider. But more than that, he has pioneered brand new applications of the Invisalign technology which have become a routine part of his orthodontic practice. These techniques—processes he designed and created—have changed the way orthodontists view tooth movement. In another blog, we’ll be showing you pictures and giving a clearer explanation of how Dr. Sutherland’s expertise and innovation enabled him to correct tooth alignment in ways other dentists, even the Invisalign designers had never thought possible.

If you, or someone you love—even an adult—believe your smile is too difficult to correct, stay tuned. With pictures and explanations you’ll be able to see for yourself. Almost no smile is too difficult to treat. We promise you’ll be surprised and amazed. Perhaps you’ll even begin to wonder:

Is a new smile in my future?

Dr. Greg Sutherland,
With Bette Nordberg

Friday, August 3, 2012

Finding Dr. Larson

Now that Dr. Ethan Larson has joined Smiles by Sutherland, many of our patients wonder, “How on earth did you find Ethan?”

The answer might surprise you.

The whole process actually began several years before Ethan moved to Puyallup. It all started when I invited several staff members into my office to pray and think about adding another orthodontist to the SBS practice. “At first we started with prayer and then brainstormed about what kind of person we were looking for. Some days, we just prayed.” Eventually, we took it a step further.

On a whim, I wrote out the biography of the kind of person I was looking for. I know it sounds nuts, but I did it anyway:

I wanted someone in his mid-thirties, with two kids.
Of course, he would be a graduate of a great ortho program, but more than that. . .
He would already have contact with orthodontics, either through work, or family.
He would be married to a woman whose family was from Bellevue. (no kidding!)
He would be a Baptist (I know, specific right?).
He would be committed to orthodontics, of course, but more than that . . .
He would be committed to furthering the cause of Christ in the community and in orthodontics.

All through the process, we continued to pray. Eventually, I put just one ad in the magazine for the American Association of Orthodontists. Just. One.

Dolly, Ethan’s wife found that ad and insisted that he call me. Something about that phone call resonated with me. He came to visit us while here in Washington looking at another ortho practice.

Here is how Ethan measured up against my “perfect world associate.” He’s not quite thirty-five, but close. He has four kids, not two. As a graduate of a great ortho program, Ethan has proven himself to be one of the best. His father is an orthodontist. His wife is from Redmond (not far from Bellevue). He’s Presbyterian, not a Baptist. And more than anything, Ethan adheres to the bigger mission of Smiles by Sutherland. All in all, Ethan couldn’t have come much closer to meeting my every hope for the practice.

It’s never easy to add an important staff member to an established business. So far, we’ve had an incredibly smooth transition. Our staff loves him. Patients think he’s wonderful. I’m impressed with his skill, his work ethic, and his commitment to the things I value most. While school prepares students for clinical practice, I hope that I’m helping Ethan find his way in the world of business.

We’ve heard the horror stories, where other dentist-associate relationships crash and burn. So far, we’ve experienced nothing but good from Ethan’s arrival.

We hope that all of you will come to value Ethan as much as I do.

Dr. Greg Sutherland, (with Bette Nordberg)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Mark of a Great Marriage

When Dr. Ethan Larson was in orthodontic school, in spite of the incessant study and work schedule, he and Dolly discovered a kind of rhythm in their marriage. Though they knew things would eventually change, they’d figured out a way to keep their relationship going. It worked in school.

When they moved to Puyallup though, few of the old habits worked any more. In the middle of the demands of his new practice, finding a new home, and settling in to a new church family, Dolly and Ethan had to find a new rhythm. A new way of making marriage work.

It turns out, flexibility is the key.

“I wasn’t much help while I was in school; frankly, I wasn’t even home much. Now that I’m no longer in school, I’m home much more often. I’ve had to learn how to help Dolly, and how to take care of our kids so she could have a break.”

These days, you won’t find Ethan off camping or hunting with the guys; he doesn't pursue a bunch of his own hobbies. “With our kids this young, they are my primary hobby. They are what we do. We know it won’t be like this forever; but for now, they are our focus.” In fact, Ethan has only recently taken up his first adult hobby; he trying to learn to play golf.

As for marriage? “I find that we treasure those few minutes between the time we get the kids in bed and the end of our evening. We sit on the couch together and talk—first about our day, and then about the deeper things that are going on around and inside of us.”

Ethan isn’t embarrassed to call Dolly his best friend.

Sometimes during that magic hour together, they watch television; sometimes they read while sitting on the couch together. “It’s not like we sit there staring deeply into one another’s eyes,” Ethan laughs. “Sometimes we share the things we discover in books and articles, and I find myself listening to Dolly read something she found exciting or challenging.”

While Ethan and Dolly don’t follow the prescribed methods recommended in the latest marriage books, they’ve found what works for them. “No one in my life will ever know me the way that Dolly does. I feel completely safe with her. She is my big motivator.” Those quiet evenings alone in the family room have become the anchor for their relationship. Life together isn’t what it used to be, but to Dr. Ethan, it’s just the way it he likes it.

What about you? What is the thing you and your spouse share that keeps your relationship alive?

Dr. Ethan Larson,
(With Bette Nordberg)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Shorter Days

Do you realize how quickly our summer has gone? In only six and a half weeks, we'll be sending the kids back to school. The days are already growing shorter, and soon we'll be wondering what to cook for Thanksgiving dinner.

A person could get a little depressed about that, especially in the Pacific Northwest, where summer doesn't really make an appearance until after the Fourth.

Do you remember March 1st, 2012 when we launched our new blog format for Smiles by Sutherland? While most orthodontists are trying to find something interesting to say about braces, Dr. Greg and Dr. Ethan decided to talk about something we all have in common -- our love for our kids.

It has been an adventure, starting a new blog with such a big change in direction. It's been hard to be so real and vulnerable when you don't really know who is reading your work. But we've had good feedback (and we'd love more!). We hope you've been blessed, that you've thought about old ideas in new ways, and perhaps challenged to try something new in your family.

And of course, no one wants to go on an adventure alone. We hoped that by starting things out with a contest, you'd all decide to join us on the blog!

Though our contest has been going for some time, there's still lots of opportunity to join in. On August 31st,  2012, some lucky person will be chosen to win 2,000 dollars off of SBS orthodontic treatment for ANY new patient. You can win for yourself, or your spouse, or for a child.

Someone has to win. It might as well be YOU!

There's still plenty of time to enter; and if you make an effort, sometime in the next five weeks or so, you can rack up as many entries as those who've been following us from the very, very beginning.

We've never run a contest this valuable before!

Each of the following activities counts as one entry. Enter as often as you wish! Just let us know what you’ve done by leaving a comment about your activity, either on our facebook page, or on our blog, or by dropping by the office with your records. Contest ends August 31st, 2012. To enter, simply:

1. Like our blog posts on facebook
2. Read the new blog and leave a comment.
3. Read the blog and become a regular follower (We post every Thursday!)
4. Leave a comment on our regular facebook posts.
5. "Share" our facebook posts on your facebook page (simply hit the "share" icon).
6. "Share" our blog links (best done as we release them) on your facebook page.

We'll do all the record keeping for you. But, you MUST be sure to let us know what you've done to help us spread the word. Who knows? Maybe you'll be the lucky winner!

Here's to the new patient!
Dr. Greg Sutherland, Dr. Ethan Larson,
(with Bette Nordberg)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Keeping Watch

Lately, I've been thinking about how the godly face crisis. It's a big subject, one I'm not sure I can explain. Perhaps the answer lies in the wisdom and experience of the one who struggles. Or, perhaps there are as many ways to struggle through pain and sorrow as there are people who do so. It is our common human experience, isn't it? Pain is the darkness that makes bright our pleasure.

My daughter Amy recently faced the loss of her father-in-law Joel Kortus. At the time of his passing, she wrote this account of her experience. I appreciated the honesty of her writing, and wondered if her words might challenge you as well. Let us know what you think?

We are on day three of keeping watch with Joel. He is shutting down bit by bit.  He lays, dying, in the middle of the living room while the everyday events of life go on around him: Thomas grinds the coffee; I change the baby. Nancy prepares dinner and Rachelle does dishes. Taft takes a conference call and we check email, text, have wine with dinner. It is at once the most normal thing in the world and the most incongruent. Joel, the father of all these children, the one who gave life to these children, who brought order and laughter, comfort and approval, lying like a child unable to wake up.

Audrey, as she was tucked in last night, asked if we could pray just for Papa. "For peace," she said.  Then, crying, said it wasn’t going to be the same at the beach without Papa, and why did he have to die--she has so many memories with Papa... when I said we would see Papa again in Heaven, she said yes, but that’s not for a long time and I am going to miss him...

I don’t understand death--how can I expect her to understand?  And how can I explain something I do not understand? Papa is here; Papa is gone.  He did not go on a trip.  He is not at work or at the gym or hunting. He cannot call or email or send a text. He cannot even send a letter. He goes, and we aren’t totally sure how, or what it looks like where he goes... and we have to stay behind. It is the one harsh and irrevocable truth about living: we will all die.  Each one of us will, in our turn, make this journey.  I have a lot of ground to cover before I feel peace about this reality.  

And as the living, we continue on, but we do not forget. Nor do we go unchanged. Each of the siblings will now carry a piece of dad with them, holding him in some ways even closer than before. When Joel was living, his clothes were something common and insubstantial; now they have the value of a relic, a piece of someone we all wanted to stay but couldn’t.  And I say when living; he is still alive, but not living and active.  He is in that strange twilight between life and death; he cannot get up and join us in living, but he is still breathing.  And remembering?  And going over memories?  How could we know?

These things I know: There is a big fat robin perched on the deck rail looking for his breakfast in the grass. There is a mist over Penn Cove today; the sky feels heavy with sorrow and mournful. The cove across the way is covered in pine trees, the kind distinctive to Washington and looking almost too green for my North Carolina trained sensibilities. Too green and too thin and short-pined. There is a sense of rest and resignation to this day, to this island. What will be will be, even as the sea plane, having just unloaded its customers on the far side of the cove, circles back to Seattle momentarily disrupting the quiet.

How do I think about what comes next? Can I believe in the Heaven described in extra-canonical detail in the latest books? This Heaven, shrouded in so much mystery in the Biblical text--is it a place? When do folks arrive? How do we get there? And how does the breath of life survive apart from the body?

It seems like a dark comedy, the brevity of our stay here. We are born and, just as we learn what it means to live, we experience pain and sorrow; we experience death--and then realize that too soon, possibly way too soon, it will be our turn to die also. It is impossible to gather up all the minutes in one short life and try to form meaning. What will I leave behind?

Here is what I know: In the midst of this dying, there is so much living still. There is the rhubarb I harvested yesterday, while talking on the phone with my mom. The stalks two feet long, the leaves at least three feet across. I have never seen anything like this rhubarb, so determined not only to flourish but to take over the garden. I almost needed two hands just to bear the weight of one stalk. After leaving the stalks for a day so the kids could see them (so big!) we tossed the leaves in to the water, to turn back in to soil or compost or energy again, however that happens. Another miracle of death to life to death again.  And then I will take the stalks this afternoon, while the baby is napping, and wash and chop them and make a crisp to feed the twenty or so of us that are gathered here, fourteen of the crew under twelve years old. So much life, so much unlived life, gathered under one roof to keep vigil for death.

I want to understand how to let go of someone you cannot keep. It feels like sand slipping through my fingers, holding on to this man we all love. We can keep his treasures (beach glass, pocketwatch, old photos), his creations (driftwood clocks, lamps, furniture, mobiles). We can keep our memories, but we cannot keep his. We do not even know what they are, or how over the past few days he has sifted through and released them. Does death come on like childbirth? Is it hard and fast and animal-like, something you crouch under and submit to--something wholly other, physical and instinctual and out of your control--or do you let yourself down, piece by piece, like a rock climber coming down the sheer face of a cliff, letting go of the rope bit by bit as you near the ground?  Has Joel in the last few days sifted through memories, one by one, letting go of each of us in turn? Has he turned over pictures of us in his mind, Thomas as a toddler with his eye patch, Tiff in pigtales, Taft working on the old Ford, coaching basketball, camping, doing the paper route, driving the bus.  Each grandchild... Lindy.  Did he go through each person, one by one, and say goodbye?  Did he get to make his peace with this parting?

If so, I wish he could tell us the secret to letting go.

Amy Kortus ( Thomas' wife)

Saturday June 16 2012
Little bird beach house, 9:30 AM

Friday, July 6, 2012

Knowing the Difference

“We know of a general dentist who does braces. It seems like that would be cheaper. Why should we go to an orthodontist? What’s the difference, anyway?”

This reminds me of an old Sesame Street song,
“One of these things is not like the other. . .”

When it comes to choosing a health care provider, it’s important to understand the differences among the various options. Some general dentists do provide orthodontic care; but what separates them from the orthodontic specialist?

1. The first difference between a general dentist and an orthodontist is training. While a general dentist can take additional short courses in tooth movement (most are weekend courses), Both Dr. Greg, and Dr. Ethan have completed a full-time orthodontic residency after obtaining their dental degrees.

These post-graduate orthodontic programs focused not only on clinical training (how to achieve the desired results), but also on the scientific basis for clinical treatment. At SBS, we understand why treatments work on a biologic, cellular level. This knowledge enables us to make the very best choices for each individual case. Our advanced training helps us recognize and treat even the most complicated cases in our office—something the general dentist rarely does.

2. The second difference between a general dentist and an orthodontist is experience. During post-graduate training, Dr. Greg and Dr. Ethan spent years treating patients under direct supervision. In private practice, they continued to treat hundreds of cases per year. This gives them vast experience in moving teeth, correcting facial deformities, and creating beautiful smiles. Because the general dentist continues to perform routine procedures (exams, cleanings, restorations) between his ortho patients, he has far less opportunity to gain this kind of experience.

3. The third difference is efficiency. At Smiles By Sutherland, orthodontics is all we do. Every member of our staff is specially trained in orthodontic procedures. We do them all day long. We buy orthodontic supplies, equipment and technology. By focusing exclusively on orthodontics, our efficiency allows us to provide top-quality care at competitive prices. Many of our patients are surprised to discover little cost difference between the general dentist and specialized orthodontic treatment at SBS.

Choosing an orthodontic provider is a big decision. With so much at stake—your oral health, a beautiful smile, and a serious financial investment—we understand your need to understand all the options. That’s why we provide free consultations for every new patient.

Call for an appointment. We can help you sort through the possibilities!

Dr. Greg Sutherland,
Dr. Ethan Larson
(with Bette Nordberg)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A New Normal

What is normal anyway?

Some folks panic as birthdays approach. Not me. I’ve spent years looking forward to retirement. After more than thirty years as a Puyallup Orthodontist, I thought I’d retire and become a snowbird— you know, the guy who travels south every winter—coming home only after the spring equinox. I’d play golf every day. I’d swim, play tennis, and enjoy long warm days in the desert. After so many Puyallup winters, who could blame me?

Lately though, I think the Lord is leading in a different direction. Maybe spending my retirement in perennial recess isn’t what He has in mind. It’s a slow process, and I’m still discovering my part in the plan. But here’s what’s happening:

Over the past few years, I’ve been surprised to have folks come to me for advice. Not just one or two people, and not just professional advice, or financial advice—not even just spiritual advice—these people seek me out in all kinds of areas. Even more surprising, I’ve found that I’ve been able to help.

Amazing, isn’t it?

When it happens, I've found that I don’t tell people what to do; rather, I ask questions. I’ve discovered that one perfectly framed question can help people discover their own best path. It’s been such a simple, natural development that I hardly noticed it. Lately though, I’ve realized that I like doing it; Honestly, I’m pretty good at it. So, I’ve decided to get additional training. I’ve attended seminars, gotten help with the process of helping others. It turns out, there’s a great deal of technique involved in the process.

Most people call it coaching. But I’ve been doing it for so long, I didn’t even realize that the process had a name.

Coaching is very different from counseling; I don’t help hurting people review past events to find healing. Instead, I guide stable, healthy people toward the future they dream about. I ask questions designed to give them insight. I help them see the potential in front of them, and find a way to tap into that potential. I help them plan their way toward their own goals.

These days, on top of my office hours, I’m coaching roughly thirty people. Yes, it takes time, energy, and focus. Truthfully? I enjoy it. It seems to be my sweet spot.

As for golf, I’m still hoping to play more—but I think my plans for a “recess retirement” have been put on hold. That’s what happens with the Lord. Sometimes, at 60, you find yourself with a whole new kind of normal.

What about you? Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an unexpectedly new “normal?” In what surprising new direction has the Lord led you? Care to tell us about it?
Dr. Greg Sutherland,
With Bette Nordberg

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Counting the Cost

In this economy, we understand that most families are living with less. Some struggle just to make ends meet. It isn't easy for any of us. Now, more than ever, people are really thinking about how we invest our hard earned dollars.

Because of that, patients are asking questions and taking the time to truly understand the costs and value of orthodontic service. One of the questions we hear most frequently sounds something like this:

I have to admit that I just don’t understand why orthodontic care costs so much. Don’t you just put on braces and wait for the teeth to move into the right place?

I'd like to try and answer that question:

As with many valuable professional services— for instance, lawyers, surgeons, pharmacists, and physicians— it’s often hard for the layman to “see” the processes going on behind the scenes. The first and perhaps most critical stage of orthodontic treatment is the treatment plan. Before treatment begins, Dr. Sutherland and Dr. Larson do an in depth examination of a patients photos and x-rays in order study the positions of both the visible and not-yet-visible teeth.They take into consideration the structure of the patient’s face and jaw, the potential for growth and probable growth patterns. With the desired outcome in mind, all of this is balanced against the age and health of the patient, the possible need for surgical and or dental intervention, (skeletal surgery or extractions). Taken together, these many factors guide the design of a customized treatment plan.

No question about it, designing the best treatment plan is both art and science. Even with all the facts, much of that plan depends on the many years of experience and training that both Dr. Greg and Dr. Ethan bring to the process.

Once a patient begins treatment, each step, or phase is executed under the doctor’s close supervision. Using regularly spaced appointments, (about every ten weeks) the doctors evaluate the individual body’s response to the treatment and adjust their plan accordingly. The orthodontist asks himself, are the teeth moving? Are they moving fast enough, or too fast? Is the process comfortable enough for this patient? How can we adapt to unexpected changes as they occur? Often, during these appointments our staff modifies the appliances or wires attached to the braces. By using different appliances, or changing the size of the wires, the position, size and placement of rubber bands, the forces moving the teeth are changed, and a different effect is produced.

Part of the orthodontic treatment cost covers these critically important office visits and adjustments. Outside the dental office, these small adjustments are almost unnoticeable. (The patient certainly knows about them!) However, in the dynamic, living biology of tooth movement--where gum health, bone response, jaw and facial growth are vital factors--each of these appointments becomes a critical part of the development patient’s new and perfect smile!

It's no question that those beautiful smiles are an investment -- of time, commitment, talent, and finances --for everyone involved. At SmilesbySutherland, we can work with you to finance orthodontic treatment. It isn’t easy. But we think the stunning results and glorious smiles are entirely worth it.

You can check out the before and after pictures on our Facebook page at:

or our website:

Dr. Ethan Larson, Dr. Greg Sutherland,
with Bette Nordberg 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Early Days

Some times, I regret that my kids won’t ever get a chance to see what Raelene and I went through in the early days. Granted, it wasn’t the great depression; it certainly wasn’t the Second World War. But early on, it was tough going.

Kids often think that you’ve always been where you are. In terms of money, comfort, income, faith, relationships, kids rarely realize that you’ve made a journey too. We did. Things were different in those early days.

We started married life while I was still in school. Anyone who has done post-graduate work while trying to find your way through the honeymoon phase knows what I mean. I was studying hard, spending long days at school and in the clinic. I studied Orthodontics at Loyola University in Chicago, and because of that, we were far away from family and friends. We found ourselves in the big city, poor and alone, trying to find our way together.

Though we didn’t have any money, we looked for fun things to do together. We discovered that you could get a lot of food without spending too much money in a Chinese restaurant. We went camping with borrowed equipment. (I’ll never forget the night we spent in a very wet tent). We went for long walks on the lake. We spent evenings with friends, singing and playing guitar. We went to free museums, or free community events (like church concerts or music programs, Christmas Tree lightings, Summer concerts in the park). We took advantage of national parks. We hiked.

Though today’s newlyweds have a whole new selection of events and activities to choose from, many of them struggle with the same financial issues. How can a couple invest in their relationship without breaking the bank? I wouldn’t pretend to be an expert on what young couples should do. But from my perspective, I would encourage all married couples to work on finding ways to spend time together. Dating shouldn’t end at the altar. It doesn’t have to cost much. You don’t even need to hire a sitter. You can date your wife after the kids go to bed! Try a date in the family room!

You just need to make it happen.

No matter where you are in your journey, your marriage needs that. All relationships do.

So. What things have you done to spend quality time with your spouse? Share your best “married date” with us. If you struggle to get it done, what keeps you from doing it?

Dr. Greg Sutherland, DDS, MS
(with Bette Nordberg)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Cooperation: It's Easier Than You Think!

Anyone who has raised teenagers knows how hard it can be to get kids to cooperate. Finishing schoolwork, keeping commitments, being on time, following the rules. Though not every child struggles, many have difficulty doing what is best for them. 

In orthodontics as in life, cooperation can be critical. Some responsibilities fall entirely in the patient’s lap. Teenagers must brush their own teeth, keep track of and wear their appliances, and when necessary put on those pesky rubber bands.

But what do you do when—in spite of your best efforts—your teen fails to keep up his part of the treatment plan? 

Dr. Ethan Larson has some great ideas: First, don’t let your frustration dominate your interaction. Sure, parents would like things to change. But as you work toward a solution, remember your child’s best qualities, and take the time to express your appreciation. Encouragement is like fertilizer. Change grows in the rich soil of encouragement.

Second, while your child may understand the nature of the problem, he might need help defining the exact struggle he faces. Most ortho patients know what area of compliance is most difficult for them (better brushing, more frequent flossing, or consistently wearing rubber bands). Dr. Larson tries to solve one problem at a time, beginning these discussions with a question:

“When do you forget your rubber bands?”
The child might say, “After dinner.” or “After brushing my teeth at night.”

These questions help a child move from the general (forgetting rubber bands) to the specific (forgetting to replace them after I brush my teeth at night). 

Next, let your child ask himself, “What could I do that would help me overcome this specific difficulty?”  For instance, if replacing rubber bands after brushing her teeth is a problem, perhaps a sticky note on the bathroom mirror would help. If forgetting his bands after eating is troublesome, maybe he could slip the bands over his pinky finger and leave them there while he eats. 

Dr. Larson encourages his patients to take one last step. “I believe that change happens best within the limits of a time-frame. I suggest that we check the success of the student’s plan at the next appointment. Parents probably need to follow up more quickly – like this, ‘Let’s try this and see how things are going on Sunday.’”

The point is, when students solve their own problems, one at a time, they not only experience success in ortho treatment, but they learn a valuable life skill. After all, most adults regularly use similar problem-solving skills. We may want to exercise more regularly, eat better, or grow in the disciplines of our faith. These same steps can help us overcome our own inertia. 

How about you? Have you solved your own discipline problem lately? Can you tell us about it?
Dr. Ethan Larson, 
With Bette Nordberg